ROBERT FRIPP God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners
Polydor PD-1-6266 (1980)
British guitarist Robert Fripp is what many people would call an eccentric. He has developed many of his own theories on music and the guitar (inventing his own tuning and way of teaching and playing known as Guitar Craft) and on the economics that go along with being a recording and touring musician. But the most unusual facet of Fripp's personality (at least to other musicians) is that he seems to enjoy practicing. A lot. The first time I heard Fripp was on an album appropriately titled Discipline by English progressive-rock legends King Crimson (of which Fripp is the only remaining original member); it took me several minutes to realize that the incredibly fast and clean lines on the track "Frame by Frame" were not being produced by a sampler or sequencer but by Fripp's own fingers.
God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners is sort of a double-album on one disc; one side is labelled "side A" and is titled God Save the Queen, while the other side says "side one" and bears the title Under Heavy Manners. God Save the Queen is a live demonstration of Frippertronics, Fripp's technique of using tape loops and delay on his guitar, creating a soothing, repetitive music that sounds like Jimi Hendrix playing underwater while accompanied by dolphins. The title track resulted from an audience member calling out a request for "The Star-Spangled Banner" to commemorate what was then the tenth anniversary of Woodstock. Fripp politely replied that since another guitarist before him had already done that, and since Fripp was British, it might be more appropriate for him to play the British national anthem instead.
Under Heavy Manners begins with the title track, which is the only vocal track on the album and features a memorable performance by former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne (credited in the liner notes as "Absalm El Habib") in which he screams a bunch of words ending in "-ism" and generally works himself into a frenzy. "The Zero of the Signified" combines more Frippertronics with another one of those incredible repeating guitar patterns by Fripp that goes on for nearly thirteen minutes. Both tracks feature Buster Jones on bass and Paul Duskin on drums and are examples of what Fripp refers to as "Discotronics", a funkier, more danceable version of Frippertronics.
Robert Fripp continues to record and tour prolifically, both with King Crimson and on his own. (Last year, he toured with hard rock guitar idols Joe Satriani and Steve Vai on their G3 tour.) Anyone who loves the guitar will find something to appreciate about Fripp's music (and anyone who hates to practice will hopefully be inspired).